Saturday after the Seventh Sunday after Trinity Sunday
Scripture: 2 Samuel 18:1-13 (NKJV)
1 And David numbered the people who were with him, and set captains of thousands and captains of hundreds over them. 2 Then David sent out one third of the people under the hand of Joab, one third under the hand of Abishai the son of Zeruiah, Joab’s brother, and one third under the hand of Ittai the Gittite. And the king said to the people, “I also will surely go out with you myself.”
3 But the people answered, “You shall not go out! For if we flee away, they will not care about us; nor if half of us die, will they care about us. But you are worth ten thousand of us now. For you are now more help to us in the city.”
4 Then the king said to them, “Whatever seems best to you I will do.” So the king stood beside the gate, and all the people went out by hundreds and by thousands. 5 Now the king had commanded Joab, Abishai, and Ittai, saying, “Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom.” And all the people heard when the king gave all the captains orders concerning Absalom.
6 So the people went out into the field of battle against Israel. And the battle was in the woods of Ephraim. 7 The people of Israel were overthrown there before the servants of David, and a great slaughter of twenty thousand took place there that day. 8 For the battle there was scattered over the face of the whole countryside, and the woods devoured more people that day than the sword devoured.
9 Then Absalom met the servants of David. Absalom rode on a mule. The mule went under the thick boughs of a great terebinth tree, and his head caught in the terebinth; so he was left hanging between heaven and earth. And the mule which was under him went on. 10 Now a certain man saw it and told Joab, and said, “I just saw Absalom hanging in a terebinth tree!”
11 So Joab said to the man who told him, “You just saw him! And why did you not strike him there to the ground? I would have given you ten shekels of silver and a belt.”
12 But the man said to Joab, “Though I were to receive a thousand shekels of silver in my hand, I would not raise my hand against the king’s son. For in our hearing the king commanded you and Abishai and Ittai, saying, ‘Beware lest anyone touch the young man Absalom!’ 13 Otherwise I would have dealt falsely against my own life. For there is nothing hidden from the king, and you yourself would have set yourself against me.”
Thus says the Lord God of Israel, “Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house” (2 Sam.12:10).
It is all coming to a head. The armies of David must contend with the armies of Absalom. What began as an act of adultery on the part of David eventually resulted in a family battle of epic proportions. The blood of twenty thousand men who rebelled against the king covered the countryside, yet David wishes to deal compassionately with Absalom by instructing his military leaders: “Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom.”
After all that Absalom had brought upon his father, David wished no harm to come to his son. However, when Absalom encountered David’s men, he thought they would deal with him as he would with them if he were given the chance. He fled and got caught in the branches of a tree, and eventually was killed by one who was commanded not to harm him.
Though David’s woes were compounded, the Lord remained with David. Was David’s love for Absalom ill-placed? Why deal gently with a traitor, even more when the traitor is your son? The reason is found in the words of David’s greater Son: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:43-45).
Our Father in Heaven has dealt graciously with us, His people. His Spirit leads us to daily repent of our rebellion against Him.
We pray: Lord, have mercy. Amen.